After a time of serious reflection and spirited debate, the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) Council voted to endorse the Indianapolis Plan for Amicable Separation during one of its regularly scheduled monthly teleconference calls on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.
The association’s 35-member governing council had time to read and review the plan prior to the call, and then it spent 45 minutes debating its merits and those points that gave some members great pause. The council settled on the following resolution:
“We regretfully support the separation of The United Methodist Church, and in doing so, we support the principles outlined in the Indianapolis Plan for Amicable Separation. If a mutually agreeable plan of separation does not occur, we support the full implementation of the Traditional Plan.”
As a way of resolving the present conflict in the UM Church, the Indianapolis Plan’s chief aim is essentially two-fold: to allow for the creation of two or perhaps three entirely separate and new churches, yet also allow for the continuation of the UM Church. The new churches proposed are a Traditionalist Methodist Church, a Centrist/Progressive Methodist Church, and potentially a stand-alone Progressive Methodist Church (the names are all place holders for now). The continuation of the UM Church would go with the Centrist denomination. The two or three new churches could, if they wish, continue to use the name “United Methodist” and the cross and flame logo, both with modifications to ensure that the new churches are distinguished from one another. If the churches chose to do so they would have to include a moniker that clearly differentiated its denomination from the others. (The plan’s 18-page enabling petition and an overview of its general principles can be read by clicking the links.)
“It was at times a tense debate for the council, but always a respectful one,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeff Greenway, Senior Pastor at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and the chairman of the WCA Council. “All the members of our council, both laity and clergy, have given years of service to The United Methodist Church; they have faithfully supported it with their talents, their time, and their service. So it was obviously a very hard and painful decision to conclude some form of separation is the only viable way forward given the great impasse that threatens the denomination and its local churches.”
The Indianapolis Plan was hammered out by a prominent group of United Methodists that included clergy and laity. Five members identified as Centrists, two as Progressives, and five as Traditionalists. While all the members have aligned with various advocacy groups over the years, when they started meeting this summer, they made clear they did so as individual United Methodists. The Rev. Dr. Kent Millard, a Centrist, the Rev. Keith Boyette, a Traditionalist, and the Rev. Darren Cushman Wood, a Progressive, convened the group. The first face-to-face gathering was at North United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Cushman Wood serves as the pastor in charge.
“Not surprisingly, given the sincere commitments and intense feelings of the people in the room, our meetings were difficult,” said Boyette, who is also the WCA’s president. “On at least two or three occasions over the course of several meetings, it seemed like our efforts to reach an agreement were going to fall apart. However, despite major differences, we returned to the table and found ways to work through significant obstacles. There is no doubt that the plan includes serious compromises by all the parties. No one is entirely satisfied with it, but every one agreed it is preferable to the long and acrimonious debate that is inflicting major damage on the church, its people, and its witness.”
The WCA Council will forward its resolution regarding the Indianapolis Plan to its Global Legislative Assembly that will meet at Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday, November 8, 2019. The 250 delegates from around the world will also debate the resolution and dispose of it as they see fit.
“I have great admiration and give thanks for the women and men who hammered out the Indianapolis Plan,” said the Rev. Carolyn Moore, the WCA’s vice-Chairwoman. “And I’m also proud of our WCA Council. The council includes faithful United Methodist leaders from across our global connection, and none of them were shy about sharing their sincere views as we debated the merits of the Indianapolis Plan. It was a tough debate, and a healthy and good one.”
The WCA Council will meet for a face-to-face meeting the day before the association’s Global Legislative Assembly, and it will hold its Fourth Global Gathering entitled Transformed on Saturday, November 9. Asbury United Methodist Church will host all three events. To register to attend the Global Gathering at the host site or at one of its 75-simulcast sites, click here.